Why the new iPad screen is the future of display

1920x1080While everybody else is stuck in 1080p — aka “full HD” — Apple is thinking and developing on a bigger canvas than that — starting with the new iPad‘s 2048 x 1536 screen. They are always looking to move standard usage forward by large steps (where they change the whole market and win big in the process), and you can bet they’re doing that again with display. The iPad display won’t be the last Apple one to break out of the 1080p mold.

For a snapshot of where we are now, go shop for a computer monitor . Most of what you’ll find is 1920 x 1080: the dimensions of HDTV, and the continued embodiment of ATSC standards for TV that were adopted in the early 1990s in anticipation of the fully digital age. That age is now here, and in the process TV is getting slowly absorbed into the Internet. So, at this point in history, your computer monitor can be your TV, and vice versa. Digital movie production is also now standardized on 1080p24 (24 frames per second) standard. So it looks like everything is settled, right? Well, I am sure Steve Jobs and friends looked at that situation several years ago and saw “stuck” instead of “settled.” The new iPad is the first clear clue that this was the case.

In the long roster of display resolutions, the iPad’s dimensions are QXGA, which is among the breed of 3×4 resolutions. 1080p is 16×9. What matters here, however, isn’t the standard being used, or the dimensions, but breaking out of a currently defaulted (or stuck) mode.

The main question for me is whether or not Apple will succeed in building a walled garden for everything new that breaks out of the old 1080p mold. I doubt they’ll succeed, but I’ll bet they’ll try.

(Oh, and in case you doubt my prophetic powers regarding Apple, check out what I wrote to Dave Winer in 1997.)

8 comments

  1. Brett Glass’s avatar

    I happen to like 3×4, but that’s because I use my devices primarily for computing and other tasks where information is arranged vertically. If I were intending to watch a lot of video, I’d prefer 16×9; it fits one’s natural peripheral vision better.

  2. pond’s avatar

    I thought digital movies were standardized at 4K, and by 4K they mean bigger than quad-1080p. Check wikipedia for 4K.

    I also note that a couple tv makers, a few years back, talked about introducing 1440p screens, but never did so in any numbers. 1440p is just 4 720p screens – 2560×1440. Interesting that the resolution of the 27-inch iMac is 1440p. I’m also wondering if the “iTV” might come out at 1440p, maybe to justify the premium price.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    3 x 4 is roughly the dimension of paper, and of most books. 16 x 9 is what the movie industry re-standardized on, for wide-screen movies.

    Interesting about 1440p. Might be what the AppleTV screen will be.

  4. Wordpress Designer’s avatar

    I understand that but I guess the end or the limitation of the pixel packing in screens are near, because at today’s era itself we have so many high pixel TV’s and Monitors but our eyes cant tell much difference. And sometimes you see Sony Bravia with less pixels than panasonic high def soothes your eyes…..And I think now next step would just be the game with colours, brightness and contrast…Sharpness with 3d effect could be the new segment too but not another power pixel packed screen…

  5. web design company in Chicago’s avatar

    I wonder how far are we going to get with these digital screens as far as pixels goes. Our eyes can only distinguish an “x” amount of resolution at any point. I am just wondering where is the line going to be drawn? 20 years ago the only resolution I knew about is VGA. That blew my mind, but honestly speaking, at arm length distance, I was unable to tell the difference in resolution from an ipad2 to the third generation ipad. Sure the colors seemed better but I just feel this pixel race will soon end, or at least pause for a little while since there is not real reason go beyond what we have now.

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Where the new iPad screen stands out most is with print, not pictures. Look at type at reading distance. The difference is more than dramatic. It’s the difference between pixels and print. It looks as clean and sharp as a printed page. It’s akin to the difference between dot-matrix printers and laser printers.

    And, while it’s true that most people can’t tell differences between VGA, SVGA, 480p, 480i and 1080p (hdtv’s max format), those who care most can tell the difference, and will want to produce and reproduce at ever-higher resolutions.

    I know that the movie industry has settled on 1080 as the max resolution for now (that’s what Avatar, for example, was shot in). But it won’t sit still. Not now that the new iPad has made clear a sharp difference on the display side.

  7. Doc Searls’s avatar

    A small additional point.

    People will adjust to whatever they have, and whatever they care about at the time.

    So, for example, I have a friend who runs a luxury vacation rental business. He says several years ago what most guests wanted was a big flat screen TV with a cable or satellite connection and lots of channels. Most guests, he says, didn’t know the difference between HD and SD. What they cared about was the number of channels. But now more and more of them know the difference. More importantly, what they want is high speed internet and reliable wi-fi around the whole house.

    Times change, tastes change, and tech drives the tastes.

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